Mitch McConnell had a problem. He needed to give President Obama, the man he had publicly vowed to make a one-term president, a nominee for the Legal Services Corporation. By law, the LSC, a Nixon-era 501(c)(3) tasked with providing legal aid to low-income Americans, had to be bipartisan; no more than six of its eleven members could belong to one party. By tradition, it fell on McConnell, as the senior member of the opposition in the Senate, to provide the president with a list of Republican names.
The trouble was that, as is often the case with putatively bipartisan bodies, the posts required nominees to meet certain ostensibly nonpolitical criteria that by their nature all but rendered the posts partisan carve-outs. In this case, McConnell needed to find a Republican who was “income eligible” for the available seat, meaning someone who earned less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which came out to a little over $14,000 a year.